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5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva

We are in a global environmental crisis.
Jewish tradition compels us to respond.

 

What is teshuva?

From the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul through the last day of Sukkot, we turn inward and reflect on how we can strive to be our best selves in the coming year.

Teshuva can be translated as repentance, return, answer, self-actualization, and/or lifting your inner voice for good. It is about reconnecting and reaffirming one’s commitment to living a healthy and good life.

What is environmental teshuva?

Environmental teshuva is the outward manifestation of our commitment to doing better for the planet. As you examine your individual impact on the planet, consider:

  • How do you relate to the planet or the climate crisis?
  • Which of your behaviors do you know are less than ideal?
  • What are one or two areas in the coming year in which you will commit to try to do better?

In August 2019, Hazon had four video billboards displayed in Times Square. We debuted the message “5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva.” Watch the video.

JTree

What is JTree?
Hazon is proud to host the US site for JTree. JTree is an emerging international effort of Jewish organizations to mobilize Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world to plant trees as a response to the global climate crisis.

Join the Jewish Climate Coalition

What is the Jewish Climate Coalition?

  • The Jewish Climate Coalition was formed by Hazon, The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC, and The Jewish Theological Seminary of America about three weeks before the Global Climate Strike – it came out of a letter that was aimed at getting other Jewish organizations to sign on
  • To date we have over 30 organizations signed up
  • The current purpose of the group is to mobilize the Jewish community around the Global Climate Strike
  • After the strike, the goal is to call a meeting for member organizations to join, and decide what the fate of this coalition will be. The Global Climate Strike, which is very much ground-up, has coincided (we believe) with a greater desire in the Jewish community to step up. We’ve sent out materials to rabbis asking them to give sermons on “Environmental Teshuva” and it’s clear that a growing number are planning to do so

Become a member organization and help us help our planet and our children’s planet!

Join the Jewish Climate Coalition

 

Current Jewish Climate Coalition member organizations

  1. Hazon (steering committee)
  2. Jewish Climate Action Network NYC (steering committee)
  3. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (steering committee)
  4. The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (steering committee)
  5. Ameinu
  6. Ansche Chesed
  7. Avodah
  8. Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
  9. Based in Harlem
  10. B’nai Jeshurun
  11. Central Synagogue
  12. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
  13. Congregation Habonim
  14. Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center
  15. Fort Tryon Jewish Center
  16. Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
  17. Jewish Veg
  18. Kehillat Harlem
  19. North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
  20. Park Avenue Synagogue
  21. Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  22. Repair the World Harlem
  23. Riverdale YM-YWHA
  24. Romemu
  25. SAJ – Judaism That Stand for All
  26. Sid Jacobson JCC
  27. Society for Humanistic Judaism
  28. Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
  29. Torah Trumps Hate
  30. Town & Village Synagogue
  31. UJA-Federation of New York
  32. Union for Reform Judaism
  33. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  34. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Calendar

This is a crucial time for climate action. Climate Week, the Global Climate Strike, and the Jewish holidays all converge in the coming weeks.

Calendar of Events

We Are the Weather

Hazon is creating a discussion guide for Jewish communities to accompany Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, which focuses on climate change.

We Are The Weather

Resources

Join and support Hazon’s work with sustainability tips, Jewish source texts, and divrei torah.

 

Resources

Calendar of Events

September 1
Rosh Chodesh Elul / Rosh Hashanah LeBehemot

Read More

Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul and also Rosh Hashanah LaBehemot, the Jewish New Year for the Animals. Just as Tu B’Shvat has been revived as a Jewish Earth Day, Rosh Hashanah La’Behemot is a modern-day reminder of human relationships with animals. Learn more.

September 6 – 8
Food Waste Weekend

Read More

Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul and also Rosh Hashanah LaBehemot, the Jewish New Year for the Animals. Just as Tu B’Shvat has been revived as a Jewish Earth Day, Rosh Hashanah La’Behemot is a modern-day reminder of human relationships with animals. Learn more.

September 9
High Holiday Sermon Swap & Learning Webinar

Read More

In preparation for the High Holidays, join Hazon in conversation with Dr. Richard Schwartz about climate change and how the Jewish tradition compels us to respond. After his presentation, engage in a sermon swap! This webinar is geared towards rabbis and spiritual leaders. Learn More

September 17
We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer is published

Read more below.

September 20
Global Climate Strike March

Read More

On Friday, September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, young people and adults will strike all across the US and the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis. Millions of us will take to the streets globally to demand justice for our present and a right to a future. In New York, we will march and rally to demand real action by our elected officials and world leaders. Learn more about the events in NYC or find a march near you.

September 21
Musical Havdalah and Pre-Selichot Kumsitz for Planet Earth (NYC)

Read More

The day after the Global Climate Strike, come together in community with people dedicated to the earth and climate change for Havdalah, song, and a Selichot-infused night of dedication and connection. Learn More.

September 20 – 29:
Climate Week

Read More

Run in coordination with the UN and the City of New York, Climate Week continues to grow as the time and place for the world to showcase amazing climate action and discuss how to do more. Learn More.

September 23
United Nations Climate Action Summit

September 27 – 29
Reducetarian Summit (Washington DC)

Read More

The Reducetarian Summit brings together people and perspectives from all corners of the world to explore strategies and tactics for reducing societal consumption of animal products and ending factory farming. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, will be delivering the keynote speech. Learn More.

September 27 – 29
Character Day (Tech Shabbat)

Read More

How does turning off screens every week for Shabbat enhance our character and bring more balance and meaning to our lives? Character Day is an annual global event that unites millions of people in schools, companies, congregations, and homes to develop and deepen their character. This year’s theme is Technology Shabbat. Join us by signing up your school, school district, company, organization, congregation, or home. Learn More.

Sept. 27-29: Join us at Isabella Freedman for Shabbat Elul, the final Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah

 

Sept 29 – Oct 1
Rosh Hashanah

Read More

The holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to let the blasts of the shofar shake you awake to the world around you. It’s a time to open up to new possibilities and be grateful for everything you have.  And more than anything, Rosh Hashanah offers the opportunity for teshuva – to return to our best, most full versions of ourselves. As we turn inward, we have the chance to ask, “what impact do our actions have on our friends and family, our communities, and on the earth?” Holiday Resources.

October 8 – 9
Yom Kippur

Read More

On Yom Kippur, our relationship with the outside world changes. Instead of thinking about what we consume, we focus on self-reflection and prayer. It is an ideal time to learn and reflect on our relationships with food and the environment. Holiday Resources.

October 13 – 22
Sukkot

Read More

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot celebrates the Fall Harvest. We are told to sleep, eat, and relax outdoors in our sukkah. Sukkot also celebrates the time when farmers have completed their harvest and are able to indulge in some relaxation before the first rains of the season hit. This holiday inherently relates to the environment, where we are gathering our seasonal fall produce from. Sukkot celebrates our seasonal food gatherings and the environment, hence during this holiday we should be more mindful of the impact that our celebrations have on the world around us. Holiday Resources.

Northern streams full of water after a rainy week

October 20 – 22
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Oct 13-22: Join us at Isabella Freedman for Sukkahfest

 

November 2
Parshat Noach / The Flood Story

Hazon and We Are the Weather

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

We are reaching a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community – and Hazon as an organization – feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this. Hazon is here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis.

We enthusiastically encourage you to read We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is a superb, readable, and very Jewish explication of how and why and in what ways our food choices matter. Hazon is creating a discussion guide for Jewish communities to accompany the book that will be available later in early October.

Some people reject the fact, overwhelmingly supported by scientists, that our planet is warming because of human activity. But do those of us who accept the reality of human-caused climate change truly believe it? If we did, surely we would be roused to act on what we know. Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?

In We Are the Weather, Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves—with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life. And it all starts with what we eat—and don’t eat—for breakfast.

If you’re interested in hosting a book group or other program related to We Are the Weather, or anything at the intersection of Judaism, food, and climate, contact Becky O’Brien, Hazon’s Director of Food & Climate, becky@hazon.org.

One of the things that has made me most proud of being Jewish is our people’s emphasis on action. More than our thoughts and our feelings, we are defined by our choices… We must not be content with words. We must change our behaviors, as individuals and as a community.
—Jonathan Safran Foer
 

Resources

Sustainability Tips

1) Eat a plant-rich diet.
Commit to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and eggs. The Worldwatch Institute’s research indicates that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Everyone is starting from a different place, so “less” is different for everyone. Any amount of reduction is a step in the right direction.

2) Waste less food.
Buy only what you need. Eat leftovers. Create an “eat me first” section in your fridge for food that’s running out of time. “Best by,” “sell by,” and other dates are not expiration dates; trust your senses to tell you whether food is still safe to eat. 50% of produce in the US is never consumed and globally, “a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.” (from Project Drawdown)

3) Get to know and buy from local farmers.
Give local farmers your money (in exchange, of course, for delicious food)! Sukkot is the harvest festival. Invite your favorite farmer into your sukkah for a meal and ask him/her how the harvest is going. Don’t know a farmer? Go to a local farmers market or farm stand and introduce yourself. And then, support these hardworking people by spending some of your food budget with them.

4) Reduce packaging, especially plastic.
Pay attention to how your food is packaged and aim for less packaging overall and for better packaging. Avoid plastics, especially single-use. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Buy in bulk. Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping – small ones for bulk products and produce, and large ones for all the groceries. Support companies that strive to reduce the amount of packaging they use and incorporate recycled content into their packaging.

5) Choose good honey.
This year, dip your apples in delicious, raw honey produced by a small-scale beekeeper. Pollinators, including bees, are critical to our food system and are facing increasing environmental challenges to their well-being, with honeybees in particular experiencing severe population declines. Supporting local and small-scale beekeepers improves the health of pollinators.

Read more sustainability tips for Rosh Hashanah.

Sermons and Divrei Torah

View the full list on our Resources For Rabbis & Spiritual Leaders page. We are collecting copies of sermons and divrei Torah which focus on Environmental Teshuva. If you would like us to share your words, please email Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein.

Learn Where Your Food Comes From

Most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition, but they’re far less aware that individual food choices are among the top anthropogenic drivers of climate change. Hazon has compiled these resources for you to make educated food choices.

Compassionate Teshuva

Whether it’s sourcing fewer and higher welfare animal products, celebrating with a plant-based meal, or performing “reverse tashlich” or animal-friendly kapparot, together, we can ask our respective communities to choose at least one action for sowing wakefulness and returning to a place of balance with creation this season and year-round. View and download The Jewish Initiative for Animals’ High Holidays flyer: “Compassionate Teshuva.” Share this resource with your Jewish community!

#Sukkot4ClimateHealing

Our friends at the Shalom Center invite you to join in their #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign. Sukkot, the week-long Jewish harvest festival that in 2019 begins the evening of October 13, is in its essence a festival of interconnection among Earth and humans. It’s an opportunity to direct the traditional symbols, prayers, songs, and practices of Sukkot to make explicit our determination to actively work for climate justice and healing; it’s also an opportunity to to take Sukkot prayers and practices beyond the walls of our synagogues and sukkahs into public spaces to demand change.  Visit the Shalom Center website to learn more about how you can create a #Sukkot4ClimateHealing event in your own community.

 

Hazon Seal of Sustainability

The Hazon Seal of Sustainability is an annual program that provides guidance and support to advance sustainability-related education, action, and advocacy in your Jewish institution, organization, and community. Rooted in Jewish tradition, participation in the Hazon Seal program will, over time, make your community healthier and more sustainable, both Jewishly and environmentally!

High Holidays Resource Packet

This educational and informational packet from Jewish Climate Action Network NYC includes a suggested sermon, prayers, and creative readings, as well as the basics about the climate crisis.

Support Hazon

Contribute to our movement to lead the Jewish community to a more sustainable future. Give a one-time gift or set up a sustaining donation as you are able.

JOFEE Programs

Over the past 5 years, JOFEE Fellows and JOFEE educators around the world have been creating thoughtful curricula for engaging participants from young to old. In particular, check out the resources on Food and Climate or Environmental Justice.

For inspiration and reflections on our weekly parsha, be sure to check out the D’varim HaMakom blog – each week JOFEE Fellows reflect on how their environmental work relates to the weekly Torah portion. We recommend Light in the DarkBlessing Family and the Earth, and Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser.

For more information about JOFEE or to find a JOFEE organization in your area, visit JOFEE.org.